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Vedic Period: Society, Economy & Religion

The Rigvedic Society

The society was male dominant, where the father was the family's head and was known as 'grihapati and dampati. Families with a common origin created clans called kulas, which were controlled by a kulapati.

Varna System

The major social development was the Varna system. Traditionally, varnas were classified according to their complexion, separating society into Sveta varna (Aryans) and Krishna varna (non-Aryans).

It was related to the profession in the second stage, separating society into three varnas:

  • Brahmins

  • Kshatriyas

  • Vaishyas

Shudras were basically Aryans but without varna rank.

The primary source of information on the varna system is Purushashukta, mentioned in Rig Veda's Chapter 10.

  • The varna method was extremely flexible. It was possible to change one's varna by changing one's employment. Inter-varna marriages and common activities like eating were allowed.

  • There were no cultural ills such as untouchability, dowry, child marriages, or the sati tradition. Women were granted total independence.

Famous Female Philosophers

Vishwavandins were the famous female philosophers of the Rig Vedic period (Gargi, Maitreyei, Lopamudra and Javala).

Gargi was the one who faced the finest philosopher, Yajna Valkya. She was a member of Janaka's court. She was mentioned in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad's sixth and eighth Brahmanas, the first Upanishad to explore soul transformation.

Rigvedic Economy

This period's economy was more priestly than agricultural. The holy animal was the cow. Godhuma (wheat), yava (barley), and vrithi were cultivated crops (rice). This was basically a village economy, free of commerce, cities, and towns.

During the Rig Vedic period, cattle in general, and cows in particular, were the primary means of exchange.

Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. The people were well-versed in sowing, harvesting, threshing, and other agricultural seasons.

Transactions were conducted in nishka (gold) and satamana (silver).

Rigvedic Religion

Religion can be classified either as monotheism or henotheism (God is one but has many forms). According to the Rig Veda, the world formed as a result of the great sacrifice (Hiranyagarbha) made by the first gods, father Dayus (considered as oldest diety) and mother Prithvi.

According to this faith, the world was split into three spheres: riz celestial, riz Arial, and riz terrestrial.

  • Indra, the heavenly sphere's god, was the most popular god, as well as the god of war and success. He killed Vritra, a demon snake. Indra is mentioned in the Rig Veda the most (250 out of 1028 verses).

  • Varuna was the heavenly sphere's god, the god of wealth, ethics, and morals, and the noblest of all gods. He defended the moral order of the world.

  • Agni was the earthly sphere's god. His other names included Hotri (priest). Huthasama (who purifies everything). He is regarded as the second most powerful god. The Rig Veda has 220 poems dedicated to Agni.

  • Savitri and Mitra were both titles given to Surya, the sun god. He is the universal energy's god. Gayatri, the holiest mantra, is addressed to Savitri. It was authored by Vishwamitra and was included in Rigveda's third mandala.

  • Soma (moon) is the god of livelihoods. The Rig Veda's whole ninth Mandal is devoted to Soma.

  • The Ashwins was the herbal and medicinal god.

  • Rudra was the only god who was not an Aryan. Saraswati was the best example of such a goddess.

Later Vedic Age (1000-600 B.C.)

Later in the Vedic period, the Aryan civilisation's main centre migrated from Saplasamdhav to the Ganga-Yamuna doab.

The Kuru, Panchala, and Anga developed as new Aryan tribes. The battle of Kurukshetra In 956 B.C., the battle of Kurukshetra took place.

Later Vedic Polity

The political situation shifted towards Monarchy. The Janas, small tribal states during the Rig Vedic period, developed into large territorial empires known as the Janapadas. These Janapads were ruled by the king.

The great legislative assembly vanished. Sabha developed into a body that was hard working.

The king conducted complex rituals such as rajasuya, Ashvamedha, and vajapeya and claimed spiritual power, establishing a well-established bureaucracy.

'Akshavapas' managed the gambling establishments, while Givikartan served as the royal bodyguard. Suta served as the king's bard and charioteer.

The sutras, called jayasamhita, read lines from the Mahabharata. Other titles for the text included satasahasra Samhita and pancham Veda.

Tax System: The tax system developed into a well-established system. Bhaga was the Bhagduga's necessary tax.

What was the condition of the society in the Later Vedic Period?

The Varna system developed into a four-tiered caste structure during the (chatur varna system).

For the first time, Varna ashrama dharma was introduced, including Brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sanyas.

All four phases were compulsory for Brahmins, the first three were compulsory for Kshatriyas, the first two were compulsory for vaishyas, and Shudras were exempt.

Sanyas referred to the achievement of vairagya, or a state of dispassion and detachment from material existence, by the sacrifice of worldly ideas and desires in order to devote the balance of one's life to spiritual contemplation.

These dharmas are mentioned for the first time in the Javala Upanishad.

Gotra System

The gotra system (disclosing ancestors) was introduced for the first time to prevent inter-caste marriages and to maintain blood purity.

  • The idea of dotja (twice-born) was introduced for the first time. This was planned for use with the first three varnas alone. Untouchability made its first appearance.

  • By birth, vratyas were untouchables (born under Anuloma marriages between an upper-caste man and a lower caste Woman).

  • Chandalas are born from pratiloma marriages (between lower caste men and upper-caste women). By occupation, antyaja were untouchables (who stayed outside the village).

  • Nishaad and Kirat were wild tribes that completely lacks civilisation.

  • During this period, the custom of niyoga, or marriage between a wife and her husband's brother, began.

Later Vedic Economy

The most important achievement was the introduction of the Krishna ayas or iron technology. It modernised the production.

As a result of this growth, the agricultural system-generated level of income. Trade and commerce increased, and cities grew.

The expansion of trade and commerce created the guilds/association (srenis) of merchants and craftsmen were created.

Sreni's code of duty was called the 'srenidharma'. The sresthi headed the merchants' sreni. The jestaka ruled over the guild of craftsmen.

Grey ware pottery was created during that time period. It was referred to as the neelalohitha in Vedic literature.

Later Vedic Religion

The Rig Vedic gods such as Indra, Varuna, and Agni faded in popularity. The Hindu trinity of Brahma (Prajapati), Vishnu, and Maheshwar gained popularity.

Pushan and Kuber, two new gods, appeared. Pushan was worshipped as the shudras' god. He was in charge of the cattle herd and marriages. Kuber was the god of wealth and happiness. He was also known as Narahvahandutta, or god in human form.

By the end of the era, the Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Shudras had risen against the brahmins' increasing monopoly.

Buddhism and Jainism emerged as a result of the revolution.


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